You'll never get and keep Every Store Perfect until field managers, sales reps, front-line merchandisers -- actually -- everyone that faces your customers are on the same page. It just doesn't work otherwise.
Now, let's talk about some practical steps you can take to to get there.
Leverage BYOD in the field.
Mobile technologies and devices are everywhere now. So, use them to improve data collection on your inventories. Bring-your-own-device policies are common, so your field workers should feel comfortable using their mobile phones for work. This will not only improve customer service, but allow you to manage retail execution with much less user error (if you choose the perfect app!).
Communicate in real time.
In order to tightly control retail execution, you're going to need to be communicating with your field workforce constantly. There are two lines of communication you want open every day: data uploads and synchronous, two-way exchanges (in simple terms, a phone call or instant messaging). Empowering your team with a retail execution solution like Every Store Perfect is a PERFECT way to do this. Field workers can quickly and easily report progress, impediments, and discuss execution strategy while they are in the store.
Focus on forecasting.
Workforce forecasts impact execution success. If your forecasting is weak, it's going to cost you. So field managers must be able to forecast effectively to limit waste and coverage gaps. This means field managers should be able to see accurate reporting...while they are in the store! Up-to-the-minute reporting should eliminate store stockouts and costly execution gaps, and much more such as providing indications of when products are becoming SLOBs (slow-moving or obsolete) for example. Using field workforce management tools actually improves forecasting, leading to tighter execution management.
Keep your eyes on execution metrics.
You've got to be diligent about managing all your execution levels at all times. The retail execution software you rely on should provide real-time information for each store/task/result up to and including real-time alerts. Having tight controls over each work product enables you to make timely adjustments to coverage, and limits the need for emergency tactics. Don't ignore your late and missed stores and/or tasks! Each day that these items aren't managed requires additional heroics to close gaps that could have easily been solved had you been managing the entire process.
Have a plan for excess and obsolete labor.
You should always be prepared to apply additional labor quickly. The longer you allow execution gaps to exist, the more it will cost you. Use daily alerts of missed and/or canceled/rescheduled stores to create 'opportunities' that close by reps with adequate skills can self-select. Those reps build love and loyalty to your company for the opportunity to pick up extra income; and your customers build love and loyalty to your company for always finding a way to get the job done. Manage that process with management alerts and dashboards.
Stay on top of field managers.
Keep an eye on your field managers. Not everyone does a great job of managing to their committed schedules or delivers on those commitments. Timing and execution completion are critical to maintaining accurate store level sales and service. Workforce tracking systems should follow all store assignments, work, and completion -- end to end. Scheduled dates, store worked dates, budgeted vs. actual hours -- these metrics all measure your field managers' reliability. Don't just take field manager status reports at face level – keep track of their performance.
Use continuous improvement goals to lower turnover costs and get more business.
Even if you have great workforce task management and in-store execution control, could you be better? Managing a field force is important to ALL MSO's and manufacturers with a field team, so a little improvement can go a long way in staying competitive. On one hand, a reduction of one day in shelf time can add thousands of dollars to your (or your customers') bottom line. On the other hand, if you're working a store with a fill rate of 96%, an uptick to 97% could improve its basket size, margin, and even traffic -- which improves your chances to land more clients (MSO), store space (manufacturer) -- or both. Always be looking for ways to cut drive time...cut shelf time...while increasing results -- to gain the ability to work even more stores -- even if you only experience small, incremental gains. Over the long haul, those gains will keep you in the game! On that note...